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The Final Countdown: The Cascades’ Saskatchewan adventure

Last weekend the UFV basketball teams faced some big competition in the wild wastelands of Saskatchewan, as both teams looked to clinch a spot in the CIS national championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The men and women were competing in the “Final Four” of the Canada West conference tournament in the hopes of achieving a first or second finish, and therefore a guaranteed birth into nationals. Both teams fought hard, with the men grabbing a silver medal and the women placing fourth overall.

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By Paul Esau (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 7, 2012

Last weekend the UFV basketball teams faced some big competition in the wild wastelands of Saskatchewan, as both teams looked to clinch a spot in the CIS national championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The men and women were competing in the “Final Four” of the Canada West conference tournament in the hopes of achieving a first or second finish, and therefore a guaranteed birth into nationals. Both teams fought hard, with the men grabbing a silver medal and the women placing fourth overall.

The women’s team initially played the University of Regina Cougars on Friday, March 2, succumbing to the undefeated Cougars (22-0) by a score of 72-56. Sarah Wierks led the Cascades with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double, but UFV was still unable to overcome the Cougar’s formidable offensive effort and home crowd.

On Saturday the Cascades faced the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for a chance to win the Canada West bronze medal. Despite strong performances from Aieisha Luyken (17 points and a cool 37 minutes of play) and Kayli Sartori (12 points and two steals off the bench), the Cascades fell behind early and never quite caught up. UFV fell 71-65, and is now forced to play in the East Regional Tournament on March 9-10 in Ottawa for a chance at a wildcard spot in the national tournament.

“I think the team had an inconsistent weekend,” said coach Al Tuchscherer about his team’s performance over the two games. “When you’re playing the number one, three, and four ranked teams in the country you need to have maximum effort for 40 minutes – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We didn’t have that and I think we are all pretty disappointed by our showing this weekend.”

Yet Tuchscherer was positive about his team’s performance this year compared to the similar finish last season in the same tournament. “I think there are a lot of differences. First of all, we were a lot more competitive this year – giving ourselves a chance both nights even though we didn’t have our best games. Last year we were in a bit over our heads with it being our first appearance. The competition is intense, the crowds are large, the scale is bigger, it was all new and overwhelming last year for our young team. I think we had genuine expectations of winning this year and when we didn’t there was genuine disappointment and even some anger with how things turned out. I think this setback can serve us well moving forward.”

The UFV men carved out a heart-pounding 63-62 victory on Friday against the University of Victoria Vikes, winning by only one point despite entering the fourth quarter with a 19-point lead. Coach Barnaby Craddock blamed the sudden turnaround on high stakes and the men’s unexpected dominance in the first half of the game:

“It truly is a special and illusive thing to qualify for the national tournament in Halifax,” he said after the game. “Many larger and talented schools will not make it there this year. When that was on the line in the fourth quarter, we started trying to hold onto our lead instead of playing to win. That change in mindset made things closer than they needed to be.”

In Saturday’s conference finals, the men found themselves on the opposite side of the equation with a narrow one point loss (71-72) to the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Everything came down to the final shot in this closely contested game, and this time the Cascades couldn’t beat the buzzer. The Golden Bears claimed victory on the back of an astounding 25-point performance from guard Daniel Ferguson, who went six-for-11 from the three-point range.

Besides the silver medal, UFV gained a standout performance from first year guard Jordan Blackman, who had 21 points in 29 minutes over the two games.

The Cascades will be heading off to the CIS championships this weekend in Halifax, starting on March 9.

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